Mahavira was the 24thThirthankaraha in Jainism. His predecessor
Thirthankaraha Parshavantha was said to have lived 250 years before Mahavira.
It is said that Jainism existed even before Indus Valley Civilisation. The
seals engraved by the people of Indus Valley Civilisation seem to
suggest that this religion existed at the time of Indus Valley Civilisation.
The scriptures in Vedic period also make references to the teerthankaras or
Jain prophets including Lord Rishabadev, Lord Aristanemi and Lord Ajitanath.
Like Buddha, Mahavira too was born in a royal family of Vaishali which is located in modern state of Bihar. Mahavira also known as Vardhamana was born to Kshatriya royal family. His father’s name was Siddhartha and mother’s name was Trishala of Ikshvaku dynasty. There is an argument with regard to the year of birth of Mahavira. Digambara sect says Mahavira was born in 540BC while Svetambara texts say he was born in 599 BC. Mahavira Jayanti is is the birth day of Mahavira which falls on the thirteenth day of the rising moon in the month of Chitra (Hindu calendar). It falls in the month of March or April (English calendar) and his nirvana is celebrated as Diwali by Jains. Mahavira was in the village called Kundagrama in Bihar India. Trishala and her husband were followers of 23rd Thirtankara Parshava. During her pregnancy trishala had auspicious dreams about lion, elephant, flowers, kalasha and many more. It is believed that mother of thirtankaras would see such dreams during pregnancy. It is understood from the jain texts that after the birth of Mahavira Lord Indra came to his birthplace along with 56dipkumaries anointed Mahavira and did Abhisheka on Mount Meru and left the place
Mahavira grew up as a brave boy with all royal luxuries and comforts at home. Both the sects also differ about his marriage. The Svetambara tradition believe that Mahavira was married to Yasodha at an young age and also had a daughter with her however Digambara tradition says that Mahavira was not married to Yashoda.
When Mahavira was 30 years, he renounced the worldly pleasures for finding the cause of his existence. Mahavira practised very hard penance for 12 years to take away all the karmas and the attachments to the worldly pleasures. He undertook sever fasts, did meditation and also discarded all his clothes and remained naked. According to Kalpha sutra mahvira travelled extensively to different places like Vaishali, Champapuri, Nalanda, Mithila, Badrika, Shravasti and Pawapuri . After following strict penance for 12 long years Mahavira was able to achieve Kevala Jnana or enlightment or omniscience under a Sala tree at the age of 43 years. He attained kevala Jnana or Omniscience near the banks of River Rijupalika near Jrimbhikagrama. Jains believe that Mahavira had the most auspicious body after he attained omniscience.
After attaining kevala gnana Mahivara travelled extensively teaching the five important Jain vows and the Jain Philosophy. His first disciples were 11students from Brahmin community. These eleven students were known as Ghandharas. Gautama was the leader of Ghandhara. Other members of Gandharas were Prabhasa, Agnibhuti, Vayubhuti, Akampita, Arya Vyakta, Sudharman, Manditapura, Mauryaputra, Acalabhraataa and Metraya. Lord Mahavira’s three important preachings for his chief disciple were Emergence, Destruction and Permanence. The Gandharas verbally transmitted the teachings of Mahavira after his death which came to be known as Jain Agamas. According to Jain texts it is believed that Mahavira had 14,000 male devotees, 36,000 aryikas or nuns, 159,000 sravakas or male lay followers and 318,000 female lay followers.
Nirvana and Moksha:
Mahavira on attaining Keval gnana devoted his life in spreading the five vows and the preaching’s in the local language and also in Sanskrit. It is believed that Mahavira attained nirvana while doing his final preaching’s for a large gathering at Pawapuri in Bihar India. Mahavira attained moksha at the age of 72. The two sects also differ in the death of Mahavira. Svetambars believe Mahavira died attained nirvana in the year 527 BC and Digambaras say as468 BC.
Jain Agamas is the teachings of Mahavira which were complied by Gautama who was his chief Gandhara disciple. Mahavira believed in the existence of soul and the universe consists of dravya, jiva and Ajiva. According to Mahavira there is no creator of life. He further peached that Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right conduct together will help to attain moksha and liberation of one’s self. God do exists in Jainism but the cycle of birth-death and rebirth is because of the karmas attached to the soul. The five important vows of Mahvira are:
Ahimsa—not to cause physical or mental harm to any living beings
Satya— to speak truth all the time.
Asteya—Non stealing or not taking anything without the permission of the owner.
Brahmacharya—not to indulge in sensual pleasure.
Aparigriha—Non attachment, complete detachment from people, worldly pleasures and places.
Mahavira also taught anekantavada which means many sided reality. Mahavira also preached that a soul will reborn depending of the karma attached to the soul either in heaven, hell and earthly realms of existence and suffering.
Mahavira’s idol is in the sitting position with lion symbol under him. The early idol of Mahavira has been traced in the city of Mathura in North India. Some of the important Mahavira temples include Osian Jodhpur Rajasthan, Jal Mandir in Pawapuri, Sankigatta in Karnataka and BhandavapurJain Thirth.
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